About PetersPioneers1909 Hoboken Cruise

By Peter Biggins

Charley Christenson contributed to this family history.

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Rose and Crescenz Smith
My grandmother Rose Smith and Charley Christesen's grandfather Crescenz Smith. Circa 1895. Source: Charley Christensen.

My grandmother Rose Viola Smith was born May 23, 1882, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Cris and Christine Koch Smith. That same day, her aunt Rosa Wilhelmina Smith married Charles Hauser.

In 1887, when Rose was only five years old, her mother Christine Koch Smith died. In 1893, Rose's father Cris moved to Chicago to further his musical career. Rose stayed in Grand Rapids and was raised by her father's sister, Rosa and husband Charles Hauser. Rose called them Tante and Uncle Charlie.

Before moving to Chicago, Rose's father Cris was remarried to Uncle Charlie's sister Mary Hauser. They had a son Crescenz, who also stayed in Grand Rapids and was raised by Tante and Uncle Charlie.

In January 2014, Charley Christensen, a grandson of Crescenz gave me the photo above and a Remembrancer for a trip taken by Tante and Uncle Charlie in 1909.

In February 1909, Tante and Uncle Charlie, both age 54, were empty nesters. Charlie had been a building contractor in Grand Rapids for 19 years. Their niece Rose was 27 and had been married for two years, and their nephew Crescenz was 19. They decided to take a vacation to New York City and the Caribbbean.

Four days before the trip, Uncle Charlie applied for a passport for the two of them that was to be delivered to them at their hotel in New York. The passport application says Uncle Charlie was 5 feet 8-1/2 inches tall and had blue eyes.

The passport notary was William A. Shinkman. Shinkman was an insurance and estate broker in Grand Rrapids. He later became the author of a Chess Primer for the game company founded by William F. Drueke. Shinkman, nicknamed “the Wizard of Grand Rapids,” was a talented chess problemist and influential in the theoretical development of chess puzzles.

Grand Union Hotel
Where Tante and Uncle Charlie stayed in New York. Grand Union Hotel advertisement, 1908. A French Second Empire style hotel constructed in 1872. Across from Grand Central Station. The hotel was demolished in 1914 to make way for the Lexington Avenue subway line. Source: Source: New York Public Library.
1908 Hamburg American Line advertisement
1908 Hamburg American Line advertisement for winter cruises, including the West Indies. 6" x 8.5"

Monday, February 22. Tante and Uncle Charlie boarded the New York Central railroad in Grand Rapids at 11:10 am. The route was from Grand Rapids to Jackson and Detroit, Michigan; then through southern Ontario to Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany, New York; then south to New York City.

11:10 took train for New York. Very foggy in the morning but clear in the afternoon. Met Mr. and Mrs. Van Wallin . . . Mr. Young aboard train. Had a pleasant trip.

Tuesday, February 23. They arrived in New York City at 9:15 am at the old Grand Central Station on 42nd street in New York City. The present-day terminal was under construction from 1904 to 1914. The high temperature in New York on February 23 was 47 degrees.

Also arriving in New York on February 23 was president-elect William Howard Taft (1857-1930), who arrived at noon and stayed at the home of his brother Henry W. Taft at 36 West 48th Street. He was in town to select a new Secretary of the Treasury. The presidential party arrived by automobile from Philadelphia and crossed the Hudson River on the 23rd Street ferry from Jersey City. He selected Franklin MacVeagh (1837-1943) of Chicago. Taft was still working on his inaugural address for March 4.

Tante and Uncle Charlie stayed at the Grand Union Hotel, room 262. The hotel was across from Grand Central Termnal from 1872 to 1914. The area is now called Pershing Square, and it is occupied by the Pershing Square Building at 100 East 42nd street.

Arrival in New York at 9:15 am. Mr. L. S. Kehal met us at Grand Central Depot. Took wife and me to Grand Union Hotel.

Assigned to room 262. Took in sights of city such as Castle Garden and Broadway & 5th Ave. Took supper at Hofbrau, Broadway & 30th St. Feel splendid. Went to Hippodrome in evening. Started to rain.

The only subway in 1909 was what is now called the IRT Lexington Avenue Subway, It had been in operation for four years from Grand Central to Lower Manhattan. In addition, there were a number of trolleys and els (elevated railroads) that had been in existence since the 1870s. The New York Taxicab Company was started in 1907. By 1908, it had 700 gasoline-powered taxicabs with fare meters, all painted yellow.

New York Aquarium, 1909
New York Aquarium at Castle Garden, 1909. Visited by Tante and Uncle Charlie. Source: The Linosaurus.
New York Aquarium
New York Aquarium in Battery Park. Source: Castle Garden.

That afternoon Tante and Uncle Charlie went to The Battery at the tip of Manhattan and visited Castle Garden, site of the New York Aquarium from 1896 to 1941. From 1824 to 1850, Castle Garden was an entertainment center, which saw the likes of Jenny Lind. From 1855 to 1890, Castle Garden was America's first official immigration center. Uncle Charlie's father Hubert and his parents emigrated from Rottweil in the Kingdom of Württemberg to New York in 1849, before Castle Garden served as an immigration center.

After Castle Garden, they went to Broadway and 5th Avenue, the site of Madison Square Park and, from 1890 to 1925, Madison Square Garden. Madison Square Garden was designed by Sanford White. In 1905, White was mudered in the rooftop restaurant by Harry K. Thaw, husband of Evelyn Nesbit.

Madison Square Park, 1908
Madison Square Park with Madison Square Garden in the center background, 1908.
Hippodrome, 1905
Hippodrome, 1905.
Wanamaker's at Broadway and 8th street. Renaissance palazzo-like design by architect Daniel Burnham. Built in 1906 and still there, though no longer Wanamaker's.

In the evening, they went to the Hippodrome Theatre on 6th avenue between 43rd and 44th streets in the evening. Showing at 8:00 were three spectacles, of which Billboard said:

  • Sporting Days, with its baseball, boating, horse race, circus, its masses of people, cycloramic scenes and pretty music, is a series of delights.
  • The Ballet of Birdland has never been excelled in this country, and it is the talk of the town. Full of thrill, with wonderful scenic pictures.
  • The Battle in the Skies, in which airship warfare is vividly portrayed.
On January 10, the New York Times had said "The big business that made records for the Hippodrome during the holidays has by no means abated. Crowds continue to fill the great playhouse and find interest and delight in it wonderful bill. The two spectacles, "Sporting Days," with its real baseball, boat racing, and horse racing, is full of fun and new effects, while "The Battle in the Skies" is crowded with startling scenes. The big airship floating over the stage and destroying the city beneath is very realistic; the ballet of Birdland, with its hundreds of dancers and flying songsters, is gorgeous, and the circus performance with the musical elephants is the best arenic bill ever given in the Hippodrome."

Wednesday, February 24. Tante and Uncle Charlie went to the headquarters of the publishing house of Harper & Brothers, at 331 Pearl Street, facing Franklin Square in Lower Manhattan (about where the Manhattan approach to the Brooklyn Bridge lies today. There they visited with A. E. Welde. From there, they went to the Hamburg Amerian office at 41-45 Broadway. They had lunch at the Hofbrau House, where they had eaten dinner the night before.

Rain and very windy. Rose and I started out alone. Went to Harper Bros., saw A. E. Welde. From there we went to Hamburg offices. To lunch at Hofbrau. Went to Wanamaker's store. In evening, went to brooklyn. Saw Mr. C. W. Smith and his son Karl. Rose very tired, blister on heel. Feeling fine. Also went to Hoboken. Saw S.S. Oceana.
Harper & Brothers, 1890
Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1890.
Hofbrau House's
Hofbrau House at Broadway and 30th street.

Tante and Uncle Charlie had lunch at the Hofbrau House at Broadway and 30th street. The quaintly timbered restaurant was opened by August Janssen in 1898. "Janssen wants to see you" was their motto.

That afternoon, they went to Wanamaker's at Broadway and 8th street. The John Wanamaker store was built in 1906. The architect was Daniel Burnham. It was built just south of the 1862 cast iron A.T. Stewart store which Wanamaker had acquired in 1898.

In the evening, they visited Rosa's brother Cris, 56, and son Karl, 13, in Brooklyn. Mary Hauser, brother of Charles and second wife of Cris, had died in 1907.

Thursday, February 25. The Remembrancer has a very brief entry for this day: "Rained."

Hamburg-American terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, 1905. Source: Maggie Blanck.
S.S. Oceana
S.S. Oceana, Hamburg American Line, 1908. Charles and Rosa took this ship from Honoken to the Wesrt Indies in 1909. Source: Source: Nordland Fahrten.

Friday, February 26. Tante and Uncle Charlie went to Hoboken and boarded the S.S. Oceana. The ship was built in 1890 in Dumbarton, Scotland, and purchased in 1905 by the Hamburg American Line for luxury service between New York and Jamaica. Rosa got sea sick, but Charles was fine. One night they left their porthole open and a wave came in and drenched Rosa. They played Shuffleboard on the ship.

Left Hotel for Hoboken. S.S. Oceana sailed at about 10:05 am. Weather somewhat hazy. Unable to see much of New York Harbor. Very smooth on water during the day. Sent postal card from Steamer. Rosa got sick in the evening. I felt fine. Weather confortable with light overcoat.
S.S. Oceana
View of the Dining Room looking down through the Light Shaft of the S.S. Oceana. Source: Nordland Fahrten.
S.S. Oceana
Part of the Upper Dining Hall on the S.S. Oceana. Source: Nordland Fahrten.

Saturday, February 27. On their first full day at sea, the ship crossed the Gulf Stream, a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream flows north easterly at the rate of 4 to 5 miles per hour. At a point probably opposite of North Carolina, the ship crossed the Gulf Stream and headed south in the direction of the Virgin Islands.

Fine weather in morning. Did not wear overcoat. 356 miles at 10 am from new York. Crossed Gulf Stream in forenoon. Took notice of difference in temperature when out of the Gulf Stream. Rosa sick greater part of the day. Did not eat anything. I feel fine. Evening: rain shower and lightning.

Sunday, February 28. It was a warm day. They played shuffleboard in the morning and lounged in the afternoon. They left the port hole open when they went to bed and received a rude awakening at 5 am.

Warm. Rosa and I took breakfast together. Bought postals aboard ship. Play shuffleboard after breakfast. Mr. S. Kobel Galagher and Mr. Atherton got beat 1 12. At noon very warm in the sun. Sailed 370 miles since yesterday at 11 am. Took lunch and lounged about the afternoon. Went to bed at 10:30. Left port hole open.

Monday, March 1. At 5 am a wave came in the open port hole. Poor Rosa got a good drenching. They took a salt water bath in more ways than one. After breakfast, they saw a flying fish.

5 am wave came in port hole. About a barrel of water in cabin. Rosa got a good drenching. Shoes all full of water. Took first salt water bath. Ate a hearty breakfast. Saw first flying fish. Wrote postals to . . . Wurzburg. Changed to swim suit. Played shuffleboard. Then Rosa and I ate lunch alone. Sailed 353 miles since yesterday 10 am.

Tuesday, March 2. After four days, Tante and Uncle Charlie finally saw land. The ship docked at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The flight time from New York to Charlotte Amalie, St, Thomas, in 2014 is four hours. The flight distance is 1,635 miles. The nautical miles are 1,435. The average high temperature at this time of year is 86 degrees.

The Virgin Islands were named by Christopher Columbus on on his second voyage in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. In 1909, they were under Danish rule. The U.S. Consul was Christopher Payne, a Baptist minister. In 1917, the U.S. purchased St. Thomas from Denmark.

Blackbeard's Castle
Blackbeard's Castle. Built in 1679 by the Danes as a watchtower to protect the harbor as well as Fort Christian. The infamous Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard, did sail the Caribbean waters in the early 18th century. It has become part of the lore of the island that he used the tower as a lookout for his own purposes of piracy.
Christopher Payne
Christopher Payne, 1845-1925. President Theodore Roosevelt named Payne as Consul General to the Danish West Indies in 1903.
First appearance of land. Got to St. Thomas about 10 am. Town the most beautiful impression one can imagine. Bought postals. Went to Catholic Church & Cloister. Had wine. Took snap shots. Got a . . . to Bluebeard Castle. Saw Consul Payne. Drank swizzle. Had supper at Mrs. Taylor's. . . . . Took on coal. Bought Bay Rum beads. Weather hot. Left for Puerto Rico at 12 midnight. We are both feeling fine.

Wednesday, March 3. Tante and Uncle Charlie arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early in the morning. Puerto Rico became a U.S. possession as a reults of the Spanish-American War in 1898. The 1898 Treaty of Paris ceded indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands from Spain. In 1493, during his second voyage, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico. He named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of John the Baptist.

Rosa bought a parasol for herself and a Panama hat for Uncle Charlie. In the afternoon, they took a trolley to Rio Piedras. The University of Puerto Rico was founded in Rio Piedras in 1903. In the evening, they went to a Plaza and heard a 36-piece orchestra. Perhaps it was the Plaza de Armas, the central square of San Juan since 1521.

Got to San Juan, Puerto Rico, early in the morning. Slept late. Did not take trip to sugar plantation. Rosa did some shopping in the morning. Bought parasol panama hat. Took several snap shots. Met Mr. Sturly in morning. In afternoon took trolley to Park and Rio Piedras. In evening went to Plaza. Heard fine Police band. 36 pieces. Had a splendid day. Feeling fine.

Thursday, March 4.

Met Mr. & Mrs. Struly. Took walk to . . . Saw old gate. Also Spanish cemetery, old market and many other things of note. Mr. Doolittle was with us. Weather very pleasant. We are both in good health. Boat sailed for Jamaica at 12 noon. Full moon beautiful on deck. Very pleasant trip so far.

Note about old wall age of City. Feeling of Puerto Ricans & many other things . . . Saw Spanish man-o-war in harbor. Noted how city was fortified.

Friday, March 5.

Has bath this morning. Enjoying trip to Kingston. Put on dress shirt first time. Very fine weather.

Conquin a beverage. Send 1.00 to W.L.S.

Saturday, March 6.

At Kingston, took carriage to . . . Gardens in company with Mr. Nugent. Very fine man. The scenery very interesting. Got back at 5:30 pm. Some rain this day. Weather sultry.

Sunday, March 7.

Did shopping here at Kingston. Saw the ruins of earthquake. Sent 2 postals & papers. Left at 5 pm. Feeling fine. Quite windy on sea. Saw pilot get off of . . . boat. Flying fish caight aboard.

Monday, March 8.

Took bath this AM. Ate breakfast alone. Rosa not feeling well. She did not leave cabin until 4:30 pm. Boat is rolling quite bad and many are seasick. Change of itinerary posted.

Tuesday, March 9.

. . . 2-35. Signed sale card of , , , at 3:30 PM. Rain.


Steamer ticket650.00
Fare New York34.08
Inland trip124.00
Oceana post card
Oceana post card. Source: Elsa Vorwerk.

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